Pharmacy technicians form the backbone of any pharmacy. Pharmacy technicians work in a variety of pharmacies, including retail, hospital, mail order, and long term care facilities. Job duties will vary across the different pharmacy settings. The job outlook is growing faster than average, with an anticipated 12% increase in the coming years.
In order to work as a pharmacy technician, most likely you will need to become licensed or certified. Many states require you to do so and there are only six states, and the District of Columbia, that do not have pharmacy technician license requirements in order to work in a pharmacy.
In the United States, there is no mandated regulatory agency governing the licensure or training of pharmacy technicians. Laws and regulations are established by each state. Each state has a Board of Pharmacy which regulates the licensure of pharmacy technicians and requirements will vary depending on your state. Therefore, there is no universal way to become a pharmacy technician in the pharmaceutical industry. Check your state’s Board of Pharmacy requirements to see what type of licensure or certification may be necessary to work as a pharmacy technician in your state. Additionally, a pharmacy technician license in one state cannot be transferred to another state.
Pharmacy Technician License vs Certification
There can be a bit of confusion as to the difference between pharmacy technician licensure and certification. The state in which you want to work will regulate whether you need to be licensed. Some states do not have pharmacy technician license requirements to work in the pharmacy.
A licensed pharmacy technician meets the state’s requirements to work in a pharmacy. Licensure is the process by which an agency of government grants an individual permission to work as a pharmacy technician since the applicant has attained the minimum competency necessary to conduct the work in the industry.
A certified pharmacy technician meets a non-governmental agency’s requirements and passes a national exam to obtain certification. Certification designates that the individual has attained the necessary level of knowledge, skill, and/or experience in an area.
States that require licensure generally require an application, including proof of education, fingerprints, passing a criminal background check, and any applicable fees. Some states also require passing a national exam to become certified and often have a preference of one agency over another, but the majority will recognize the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB) credential, which is the older of the two. Meeting all of the requirements results in obtaining a pharmacy technician license to work in a pharmacy in your state. Some states do not have requirements to obtain a license, but meeting the requirements administered by the PTCB can increase employment opportunities.
Even though some states do not have pharmacy technician license requirements, you can still become nationally certified and not licensed. Meeting the requirements of national certification may still play to your advantage depending on the employer. Many of the large pharmacy chains may require national certification based on their corporate policy, even though the state pharmacy board may not require credentials. Additionally, the fact that you have attained national certification as a Certified Pharmacy Technician (CPhT) may win you the job, even if your state and employer does not require the credential.
In order to become a CPhT you will need to pass a Pharmacy Technician Certification Exam (PTCE). There are two agencies that offer the exam; the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB) and the National Healthcareer Association (NHA). The main difference between the certification from PTCB and the NHA is that PTCB certification only requires a high school diploma and a passing score on the exam. Once you are certified, your certification is valid for two years.
The PTCB certification requires that an individual successfully pass the PTCE, whereas the NHA certification requires that an individual successfully pass The Exam for the Certification of Pharmacy Technicians (ExCPT).
The PTCE is the more popular of the two exams, due to the minimal requirements needed in order to take the exam and more widely recognized and endorsed. However, both exams are very challenging and typically require on-the-job pharmacy training or completion of a pharmacy technician training program to assist with preparation of the exam. But there is no requirement for formal education in order to take the exam. There are many resources available to help with preparing for the exam, such as PTCB study guides.
Preparing for Certification
There are typically two ways to prepare for a national certification exam for pharmacy technicians. Either through formal education, whether in-person or online, or purchase a study guide and sample test.
In most situations, formal education will be the better route but will cost you some money. No matter which exam you pursue, PTCE or ExCPT, having a strong education and deep knowledge of the profession under your belt will greatly help you in successfully passing the exam and starting you off on the right path in your exciting new career.
Pharmacy Technician Certification Cost
Pharmacy Technician Certification Exam (PTCE) – $129
The Exam for the Certification of Pharmacy Technicians (ExCPT) – $117
Studying for the exam on your own will have its challenges and lack the necessary tools and focus needed to properly prepare. Employers will also look for formal training in addition to certification when it comes to working as a pharmacy technician. Find a good local pharmacy technician training program in your area, or check out the 10 best online pharmacy technician schools throughout the United States to get started.
One of the benefits of an online pharmacy technician training program is having the flexibility to continue meeting work and personal responsibilities while learning an important vocation at the same time. Most online pharmacy technician schools offer similar courses as traditional campus programs, so students can be confident that they are learning all of the necessary skills to thrive in the pharmaceutical industry. Students enrolled in online pharmacy technician training programs often work at their own pace. Online tutors are available when needed to help students digest the material covered in their classes and virtual labs.
In addition to completing coursework, an externship is an important part of many online pharmacy technician programs. Online pharmacy technician schools will often partner with retail pharmacies, such as Walgreens and CVS/Pharmacy to provide externship opportunities.
The goal of any program is to ultimately prepare an individual to successfully pass the pharmacy technician certification exam and become a CPhT. When choosing a pharmacy technician training program, consider who the program is accredited by (such as American Society of Health-System Pharmacists), whether an externship is offered, and the success rate of graduates passing the pharmacy technician certification exam. This will help out in the job market and guarantee you are investing in a quality education offering the best value.
Pharmacy Technician Training Programs
There are many resources that offer training to become a pharmacy technician. Completion of a pharmacy technician certification program could take under one year, where as an Associate Degree would take two years.
Training Program 1 Year or Less – Certificate/Diploma Program
A certificate or diploma program takes approximately a year or less, and will be focused specifically on the pharmacy technician profession. This program will prepare the pharmacy tech to take and successfully pass a pharmacy technician exam (PTCE or ExCPT), in order to become a CPhT. At the end of the program, there is typically an externship to introduce the individual to a pharmacy and begin gaining hands-on experience, prior to applying to work in a pharmacy. At times, ‘Certificate’ and ‘Diploma’ are used interchangeably by many schools. This is the fastest way to become a pharmacy technician when formal education/training is required.
Certificate/Diploma Program Completion Time: Most pharmacy technician certificate programs take between four months and one year to complete, including an externship.
Training Program 2 Years – Associate Degree (AA)
A degree program takes approximately two years and results in an Associate Degree (AA). The degree program can be great for those potentially wanting to go on and obtain a four year Bachelor Degree at a later date depending on your career path. The additional coursework will broaden your knowledge and expertise as a pharmacy technician and carry over to working in a pharmacy. The additional education will typically assist with moving into a management position and other promotion opportunities throughout your career as a pharmacy technician.
Associate Degree Completion Time: An Associate Degree typically takes about two years of full-time study to complete.
Keep in mind that many employers prefer and many states require their pharmacy techs to obtain certification. National certification indicates that professionals have met a nationally recognized measure of competency which will typically lead to more job opportunities, higher pay, and greater job security.
Enter the exciting growing market for pharmacy technicians today. Earn your certificate and pharmacy technician licensure, so you can start on a life changing career that can take you in many exciting and rewarding directions.